Conversations About Peace

Claudia Cheffs | New University

Claudia Cheffs | New University

Expanding on the need for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Dr. Gershon Baskin spoke on peacebuilding last week.

The Olive Tree Initiative at UC Irvine, Center for Citizen Peacebuilding and International Studies Forum hosted Dr. Gershon Baskin, an Israeli peace negotiator and key figure in the dialogue for peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict, last Monday for a lecture and discussion on the current situation in the Middle East.

Dr. Baskin is the former Israeli co-director and founder of the Israel/Palestinian Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) in 1988. The IPCRI is a joint Israeli-Palestinian public policy think, or as Baskin noted, “do”-tank located in Jerusalem.

More recently, Baskin was directly involved in the negotiations between Israel and Hamas that successfully led to the release of Israeli soldier Gilead Schalit in October 2012.

In a lecture and discussion that touched upon several complicated aspects of the history of the peace process, Baskin emphasized one clear point: a two-state solution is the only solution, and this concept is nothing new.

“What really interested me was to work cross-boundary on the Iraeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said, referring to his work in Jerusalem in 1987 with the Institute for Education for Jewish-Arab Coexistence.

Baskin’s belief in a two-state solution is one that he has adhered to since the 1970s, when he met the then-Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) ambassador, who promptly rejected the idea.

“I knew then that he was wrong, and I also believed that he would come to the realization … that the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a two-state solution,” he said.

“It was no longer a question of ‘us or you,’ but a question of ‘us and you, and how.’”

Dr. Baskin identified seven key issues at the time: the question of Palestinian statehood and the nature of its sovereignty; the delegation of waters; the physical link between territories of West Bank and Gaza; the future of Jerusalem; the future of question of refugees and their rights; the nature of economic relations; and natural resources. He has since added an eighth, the nature of security arrangements.

“We’re going to have a find a way, we as Jews, to acknowledge verbally our share of the responsibility for the refugee problem,” Baskin said. “Israel will have to participate generously in an international fund that will help Palestinians resettle, whether in Palestine or wherever they choose. Every Palestinian should have the right, forever, to become a citizen of their state … as Jews have the right to become a citizen of Israel.”

In general, according to Dr. Baskin, both sides must overcome a history of deceit, violence and not following through on agreements. Both need to recognize and accept their share of the blame in the conflict, as well as the existing similarities they have in a common goal for two states to move forward on negotiations.

“I can go on and on about the lessons learned or about the lessons that should have been learned,” Baskin said. “I know that when we get to [resolving] this conflict on the parameters I laid out, we will need to address all these lessons learned and I know we have to capacity to learn from the mistakes of the past.

“I actually believe we have the brainpower, the capacity to make new mistakes. We will make new mistakes, we should not repeat the old ones.”

Dr. Baskin’s lecture is the first in a speaker series this year, titled “20 Years After the Oslo Peace Accords: What Happened to Peace in the Middle East?” The speakers will include individuals who have been involved with the peace process in the Middle East, focusing on key events from 1993-2013.